Authorities take 29 girls from home; facility official says civil rights violated

Date: 1988-06-15

The Baton Rouge Advocate/AP

ARCADIA -- State and local authorities cut locked gates and removed 29 students Tuesday from the New Bethany Home for Girls to look into allegations of abuse, but a spokesman at the facility for troubled children called it an illegal raid.

"We feel this is a gross violation of civil rights here," said Bob Sensat, a spokesman and member of the home's board.

The Department of Health and Human Resources obtained a court order to search the complex and interview the girls after receiving complaints from a runaway, said Lucky Raley, chief criminal investigator for the Bienville Parish sheriff.

Gwen Stewart, DHHR spokeswoman in Baton Rouge, said the department investigates claims of child abuse.

"If the evidence is strong enough, we take custody of the child. If there is not enough evidence to seek or obtain a court order, our hands are tied," she said.

Authorities said the girls would be taken to temporary housing with the Minden office of the Child Protection Service, DHHR and the Johnny Graves Youth Center in Shreveport.

All 52 girls, ages 12-17, were given the option of leaving the school. But about two dozen remained, an official said.

The students who left said they were going home.

"Yes, praise God! I'm going home, finally," one girl said as tears streamed down her face.

Some girls who chose to remain at the school chastised the departing students from inside the school's fenced yard. "We are staying here with the Lord," one said.

The facility, surrounded by a 6-foot-high chain link fence topped with barbed wire, is 3.5 miles south of Arcadia.

DHHR officials, two state troopers and five deputies arrived at the school to remove the girls.

"They said come on in, but you're going to have to cut the lock to get in. So we did," said Raley.

The Rev. Mack W. Ford, pastor and director of the home, was in South Carolina, where a boys' home had closed recently, Sensat said.

"It was quite a scene," Sensat said. "We didn't resist them. We wouldn't stand in contempt of court."

Sensat said the "raid" was a violation of constitutional rights because of the separation of church and state. He said that since the home receives no state or federal funding, the state had no right to intervene.

Sensat said the allegations of abuse are false.

"We feel it is not over," Sensat said. "Even if they (DHHR officials) don't come back, it is not over."

The home's attorneys from the Christian Law Association were expected to arrive today, he said.

"The home will pursue legal charges to make sure we are free from future harrassment," Sensat said. "They violated our constitutional rights, and these wrongs will be made right.

"The state has no right to dictate to the church how to carry on its ministry when we do not have any proven abuse cases. They came in merely on assumption," he said.

Ford founded the Arcadia institution in 1971. There were a number of complaints about its operation in 1979. Attempts by DHHR to tour the facility met with resistance from Ford.

DHHR tried to close the school in 1980 for refusing to allow an inspection and licensing, but a district judge ruled the state lacked such authority.

Sheriff Aarvis Whitman calls the home a prison, and has refused to send back runaways.

Robert Stewart, the juvenile officer for the sheriff, said about 30 girls flee from the home every year.

One girl said she received 20 "licks" with a paddle for having rock music tapes and for cutting her bangs.

Others girls have said they were hit for talking about boys, popular songs, television or news.

A similar fundamentalist residence, the Bethel Home in Lucedale, Miss., was shut down Friday and its proprietor, the Rev. Herman Fountain, was arrested on charges of assaulting a police officer and inciting a riot.


Survivors of Sexual Abuse, Trafficking, or Rape report in 2013

We are not going to shut up or go away. Mack W. Ford and his staff sexually molested, trafficked, and raped children.
By convincing others that he was doing God's work, in reality, he fulfilled his pedophile needs and had churches pay for his deviances!
Survivors of New Bethany will not shut up and we are here to stay.

If you were a staff at New Bethany, you should clear your name while you can. Those on the Board of Directors who knew the sexual abuse was ongoing, need to talk to the Bienville Parish Sheriff's Office.

In August of 2012, Louisiana changed the Statutes of Limitations, and now allows a prosecutor to prosecute Child Sexual Abuse of a victim under the age of 17, and extends 30 years beyond the victim's 18th birthday. If you are less than 49 years old, were sexually abused at New Bethany or by New Bethany Staff, join those of us who are reporting. There are pedopiles walking freely because people will not talk about the truth of Mack Ford and male and female staff.

We can't undo what pedophiles at New Bethany in Arcadia, Louisiana did to us, but we can stop them from harming another child.

New Bethany, Arcadia, Louisiana, Director Mack W. Ford

"Sheriff Aarvis Whitman calls the home a prison, and has refused to send back runaways."

Sheriff Aarvis Whitman was the Sheriff for Bienville Parish Sheriff's Office in Arcadia, Louisiana. New Bethany was run by Mack W. Ford.
Through numerous investigations and findings of abuse, neglect, medical neglect, and alleged rapes and sexual abuse of children, without an investigation, pedophiles walk among everyone else, free to harm another child.

In the '70's, Mack Ford was arrested for shooting at teenage boys on the property of New Bethany Home for Boys and Girls.
Ford walked around like the "Cock that Crows" .... Mack Ford called Sheriff Aarvis Whitman a whoremonger and Whitman punched Mack Ford in the face. The proof of Mack W. Ford's abuse of children is in the details and corroboration from entirely different sources, years, and without knowledge of one another

I was a student at New Bethany

I went to New Bethany not of my own free will. I was taken there by a small christian group home that my mother took me too and allowed me to be taken to New Bethany. I was a troubled teen, stealing, fighting and not going to school. New Bethany was the best year of my life. I learned the entire Bible as well as many other valuable lessons. I was able to not only catch up on the grades I was held back in public school but I also completed 3 years of High school in one year. I did receive paddelings but no different than what I had in public school. we ate very well on the farm that the school was on. I learned how to cook and made many friends. I cannot believe the extremes that some of these people are going to with the accusations. yes it was hard to be there away from family and friends but the relationship with God and the lessons that I learned there are precious to me and it was the best year of my life. Mac Ford is not a tyrant. he was like a loving grandfather that treated all of us like gold. I am so sad that there are people that have comtempt for the Fords. I thank God for my time there. it made me the person I am today. I am no saint but I know God and I love Him.

my life at New Bethany Home for Girls

My first day at New Bethany Home for Girls was not a pleasant one for me, not so much that I was going to a strange place, but that my Mother passed away when I was 13..My Dad was married not long after her passing which ended my sister and I at New Bethany...We were told by my Dad that we were going to visit relatives. I didn't know it then as a child but understand it now that I am grown...It was not of my Dad's doings. We said our goodbyes as we unloaded our suitcases from the car.. Sad, confused...felt abandoned and all alone..My sister and I walked in the front door greeted by many girls in a small living room with couches...Two of the girls sitting on the couch were pregnant..
I wondered in my mind what kind of Home were we in, because we were not there because of trouble but because my stepmom and my Dad's new marriage..I was assigned a girl yes a watcher that took me to a room where I could place my belongings.. I had a suitcase with nothing but pants and was told by my watcher...I will call her friend because she was really nice to me in my new surroundings..
She began telling me who this was a Home where we wore no pants...listened to no radio...watched no tv and she explained to me that this was a Christian Home...I knew about Christianity since my Dad was a Baptist Minister..
So as she talked to me about everything that I didn't know about our next stop was a place called The Fashion Shop..I thought wow I get to go shopping..It wasn't to funny to me back then but when I look back on my life there I too thank God for sending me there...The Fashion Shop was a small closet at the end of a long hall with used I was small framed and finding something was well it took awhile.
Next we enterd the kitchen -dining hall..The whole place seemed to large but when your a kid things feelings of being left alone and wanted to go home like any other normal child were real...I cried myself to sleep probably many nights.
I would see my sister from time to time because we were separated on arrival to make sure we would not run away.
Time went on days, weeks, months even years at New Bethany... we spent almost five years there...I recall so many girls that were there most of whom I made friends with...In the mornings when we would wake pretty early as I recall, we would make our way with our bibles to have devotion before breakfast...We had to learn spriptures from Psalms and would quote those scriptures before we would eat...Do I think that was a bad because I was accustomed to the bible...sometimes I found it alittle hard for me to memorize scripture but I can to this day still quote some in Psalms.
I am writing this story because I wanted my story to be heard as well...I didn't experience any whippings with paddles but I heard a few that either tried to run away or misbehaved...
I never heard or experienced anyone being locked up in a cell ..or anyone being molested... I was under the care of dorm parents Bro..Dud is what everyone called him, or Bro. Darnell and his wife and their little son David..and Ms Diane now she could swing a paddle..I did receive a few licks from her when I didn't complete my school work like I was supposed to..I didn't do that anymore.. My time there for almost 5 years was not good all the time because you always miss sense of belonging, but I tried to make the best of it...
I do have fond memories of traveling and singing and would alot of times sit on the floor while Bro. Mack is what we called him was driving the bus. We would talk but mostly we would make each other laugh when he would take his front teeth out he had a plate in front and it made him look like a rabbit...I miss him and his whole family.
There were many times that my sister and I would be invited to his home to eat one time I remember well because they were having crawfish and we were from south Louisiana and he knew we loved Cajun food.
There was another time when Mrs. Ford took us shopping and bought us new dresses..We didn't have many visits because no one would come not because we were not allowed visits or phone calls we were allowed them..
We had no fences or barbwire..we had alarms on the doors and windows...I pretty much could go anywhere I wanted on the grounds as long as someone knew I was going outside..
I would have to write a book to get it all in but my days at New Bethany came to an end because my dad came to see us and took us and got our haircut, well stepmom wanted our hair cut...We were told to leave that night and slept in the living room until our Dad arrived to get us..I remember turning back and looking at a place that I had called Home for almost 5 years and part of me wanted to leave but part wanted to stay...even when we were home my sister and I talked of wanting to go did make lifetime friends at New Bethany..
I have a wonderful family now and am in church I new care for my 88 year old Dad...yes I had to forgive him and my stepmother for leaving us there ...sometimes you can hold unforgiveness for a very long time and it just eats away at you..
I am writing this to give my story at New Bethany Home for Girls...And I too plan to walk that long road back to cry laugh and relieve some memories for me I can say there were good ones...Everyone has a Story! May God Bless and Keep each and every one who ever walked through those doors weather it was a bad experience or a good one...Don't allow bad experiences to dictate who we can become...Your sister..Tina

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